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POPULAR AFRICAN TRADITIONAL DANCES

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POPULAR AFRICAN TRADITIONAL DANCES
Dances from Benin, Ghana and Togo

Agbadza

Agbadza is among the oldest musical types performed by the Southern Ewe of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and parts of Southwestern Nigeria.. Agbadza is derived from an older war dance known as Atrikpui. As a social and recreational music and dance, its performance is open to everybody in the community, irrespective of class, age, sex, and religion. There are other varieties of this musical type that have different names: Kini, Akpoka, Ageshie, and Agba-- tempo being the main distinguishing factor among these varieties. There are five sections or movements in Agbadza performance: 1. Banyinyi- a short introductory piece that is performed as a prayer to the gods and the ancestors, 2. Vutsotso- the main dance section, 3. Adzo- a less-vigorous dance section, during which only the master drum, Sogo, accompanied by Gankogui and Axatse are used, 4. Hatsiatsia- song cycle, during which topical, historical, philosophical, and reflective songs are performed accompanied by Gankogui and Atoke, 5. Vutsotso- another round of the main dance section, which may last for several hours.

Agbaei

Agbaei is another social music and dance of the Krobo of Ghana. It is flirtatious in nature. Oral history has it that Agbaei was founded when the elders of the Krobo land in their early days of settlement realized that the youth were having problems with "Dating." The young men and women were therefore compelled to participate in this music and dance so that they can gather some tips to help them in real life situations

Adowa

Adowa is by far the most widespread and frequently performed social dance of the Akan people of Ghana. The Akan are located in Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern , Central and parts of the Volta Regions of Ghana. It is best described in Akan musical traditions as a women's dance because they dominate the performance. The few men that are seen during any performance handle the musical instruments. This dance is mostly performed at funerals, but can also be seen at yearly festivals, visits of important dignitaries, and other celebrations.

Adzogbo

Adzogbo originated from Benin (Dahomey) as a Dzovu (spiritual/religious) music and dance). It was called Dzovu, in that during any performance, the men participants would display their dzoka (juju/charms) especially the so-called "love charms" to seduce women. When this music was brought to Togo and later Ghana in the late 19th century, its function changed. The southeastern Ewe of Ghana now performs it for entertainment during festivals and other social occasions. The women's[ch65533] section or phase of the dance is called Kadodo.

Atsiagbekor

Atsiagbekor is among the oldest traditional dances of the Ewe-speaking people of Southern Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Originally a war dance performed after battle when the warriors returned to the village, it is now performed on many social occasions. One of the outstanding features of the dance is the interaction between the master drummer and the dancers: [ch65533]every rhythmic theme played on the master drum has a corresponding sequence of dance movements which is timed to precisely match the drum rhythms" (Locke, 1978). Atsiagbekor songs constitute an important heritage of Ewe oral tradition. Most of the songs contain historical references to their chiefs, war leaders, migration stories, themes relating to the invincibility of the Ewes against their enemies, themes of loyalty, bravery, and death etc. To watch an Atsiagbekor performance today in Ghana is to watch scenes which may have their actual origins in battles that were fought as the Ewes trekked through hostile countries in search of peace.

Asaadua

Asaadua was once a popular recreation musical type among the Akan people of Ghana. Its performance is now limited to some few communities in Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions. Like other popular entertainment music, which evolves from the ingenuity of some veteran traditional musicians, Asaadua started as a youth recreational music for the men of the Akan tradition.

Babashiko

Babashiko is a recreational music and dance of the Southeastern Anlo Ewe of Ghana, performed mostly at festivals, funerals and other social occasions.

Bewa ( Bawaa)

One of the oldest traditional dances of the Dagaare speaking people of the Upper west Region of Ghana. Bawaa is a ritual and ceremonial dance performed to celebrate the beginning and end of the rainy season, good harvest, New Year and other social events.

Bamaaya

Bamaaya, meaning, "The river (valley) is wet", is the most popular social music and dance of the Dagbamba of Northern Ghana. It began as a religious musical performance, but now functions during funerals, festivals, national day celebrations, and other social occasions. Dancing the Bamaaya requires a lot of waist movement and twisting. The maiden name for this music and dance, Tubankpeli, is now the main dance movement. Originally, only men took part in the dance while the women would sing, shout praises, and encourage the dancers. Now, Bamaaya is for both genders.

Boboobo

Boboobo is the most popular social music and dance of the Central and Northern Ewe of Ghana and Togo. This music and dance, also known as Agbeyeye [New Life], or Akpese [Music of Joy], emerged from a village, called Kpando in the Volta Region of Ghana during the independence struggle between 1947 and 1957. Boboobo is derived from an older circular dance called Konkoma. Although this music was initially confined to a few towns and villages in central and northern Eweland, it has now spread to all Ewe speaking territories in Ghana and Togo.

Fontomfrom

Fontomfrom or Bomaa is the most complex of all musical types of the Akan of Ghana. It is a series of warrior dances that are performed in religious, ceremonial and social contexts at the courts of chiefs.

Gadzo

Gadzo is a war-dance drama of the southeastern Anlo Ewe of Ghana, which came from Notsie in the Republic of Togo. Originally, this music and dance was performed after wars so that the warriors could reenact battle scenes for those at home. Presently, Gadzo is performed during ancestral stool festivals, Zikpuiza, state festival Hogbetsotso, funerals of important chiefs and members of the group, and by professional and amateur groups for entertainment.

Gahu

Gahu emanated from the musical traditions associated with marriage and wedding rites of the Yoruba of Nigeria. This historic origin can be seen today in the rich Yoruba costume worn by dancers. The Southern Ewe of Ghana and Togo presently performs the dance on most social occasions.

Gota

Gota originated from the Kabre tribe of Benin, and was introduced to the Southeastern Ewe in the early nineteenth century through trade. Originally performed in Benin for their war god, Gota is now performed as a recreational music and dance by the Southern Ewe people.

Gome

Gome is one of the oldest musical types performed by the coastal Ga of Ghana, which was introduced by Accra fishermen from the Fernando Po Islands in the early eighteenth century. Originally, Gome was performed exclusively by fishermen after their expeditions to celebrate their catch. Other occupational groups, especially artisans, also eventually adopted this music and dance as a form of entertainment. Presently, Gome is performed by all categories of people-- young and old, male and female, on all social occasions.

Gyewani

Gyewani recreational music and dance is peculiar to the people of Nyamebekyere in the Akwapim Traditional Area of the Eastern Region of Ghana. This music and dance came into existence by sheer incident. It was one Christmas Eve when some young boys in the village went to the bamboo groove (which is situated near a river) to cut some bamboo stalks for their annual traditional fireworks. During the process of cutting, a piece of the bamboo stalk fell into the river. After retrieving this piece of bamboo from the river, one of the boys struck it against a near by rock. The "melodious" sound from this bamboo stem came as a surprise to all the boys. Instead of the fireworks, they cut the bamboo to various lengths, which they then used in making music. This gave birth to the Gyewani Bamboo music and dance. Other varieties of this music are also found in most forest areas of Ghana.

Jera

Jera was originally a religious music and dance of the Kparibas in Dagbon, performed before and after hunting expeditions. It is now performed by most Dagbamba villages in Northern Ghana on diverse social occasions: festivals, funerals, and for recreation after a hard day's work. The religious costume is however retained.

Kete

Kete is commonly found in the royal courts of traditional Akan communities. It is performed in the courts of every chief whose status entitles him to be carried in a palanquin. The music therefore can be heard on state occasions and festivals. There are three parts of the performance: Drum music, pipe interludes, and vocal counterpart of the pipe tunes. At least, eight pieces are played during a performance. These pieces are identified by the general name for the type of drumming and dancing, by name of its usual context, function or general character, by name commemorative of an event, or by name indicative of the participants. Adaban also called Topre is used when the chief has to perform the ceremonial "shooting dance". Apente is used mostly for processions.

Kpanlongo

Kpanlongo is the most recent of all Ga recreational musical types, an offshoot of Gome, Oge, Kolomashie, and Konkoma. Referred to as "the dance of the youth," Kpanlongo started during the wake of Ghana[ch65533]s Independence as a musical type for entertainment in Accra. Kpanlongo is presently performed at life-cycle events, festivals, and political rallies.

Kpatsa

Kpatsa is the principal traditional entertainment music and dance of the Dangme of Ghana, in West Africa. The dance itself involves sideways and forward shuffling movements, making use of short, brisk steps with the body slightly bent. The dance steps move the dancer either diagonally or backwards. With arms bent in front of the body, the right leg steps in concert with the movement of the right arm while the left leg steps at the same time as the left arm; while one foot remains flat on the ground, the heel of the other foot is lifted off the ground.

Klama

Klama music and dance is associated with puberty rites of the Krobo of Ghana. The celebration of this music and dance highlights the "outdooring" of girls who have undergone intensive tutoring in mother craft. Klama is now performed on various social occasions.

Kinatsu

Kinatsu is a warriors/hunters dance of the Konkonba tribe of Northern Ghana. Although it began as a warriors/hunters musical performance, it now functions as a harvest dance during funerals, festivals, national day celebrations, and other social occasions.

Kundum

Kundum music and dance, which is performed as part of the annual Kundum festival of the Ahanta and Nzema people of Ghana originated in a situation of famine and hunger around 1700. Although traditionally a harvest music and dance, Kundum can now be seen on all social occasions. Kundum is performed in 2/3 sections: The first is domo, a slow movement, in which dancers evoke beauty, majesty and gracefulness with stately postures of tilted bodies. The second section ewulal[ch65533] (literally meaning "pumping"), inspires fast and masculine movements. The third section edudule consists of vigorous torso to torso movements, strutting movements of the body. The act of "plucking" in the fields is dramatized in the Kundum dance.

Nagla

A dance performed by the Kasena Nankeni people of Paga and Navrongo in the Upper East Region of Ghana. In the olden days, it was performed at funerals but today, even though it still maintains this function, it can also be seen on most social occasions excluding marriage ceremonies. Movements in Nagla reflect the spirit of togetherness.

Nmane

Wedding music and dance of the Dagbamba women of Northern Ghana. This music is performed exclusively by women in honor of a new bride. Songs used in this celebration relate to topical, human, marriage, and other social issues.

Sanga

Sanga is one of recreational musical types of the Ashanti-Akan of Ghana. The instruments used in this ensemble and their specific rhythms suggest northern Ghana, Dagbamba origins. The dance may be called a "chase" - it is gay and flirtatious. The women dancers wear bustles to attract the men.

Sikyi

Sikyi is a recreational music and dance of the youth of Ashanti. It originated in the 1920s but became very popular around Ghana[ch65533]s Independence in 1957. It is performed in the vein of Kpanlongo of the Ga of Accra and Boboobo of the Northern Ewe of the Volta Region of Ghana.Sikyi is seen principally at social gatherings where the youth solely express themselves in courtship. It is flirtatious in character. Its characteristic form is the strutting and bobbing up and down and a display of theatrical elegance

Takai

Takai is a royal dance of the Dagbamba chiefs and princes. It is performed on festive occasions such as the annual Damba festival, political rallies, and durbar of chiefs. Danced only by men, Takai movements involve pivot turns, torso swings, and stamping to the rhythm of the lunna and gungon, the only drums that are used in this dance.

Yeve

Yeve is believed to be a "Stone or Thunder God" that falls from the sky during or after a rainstorm. This religious society is one of the most powerful and secretive among cults in the southeastern Ewe territories of West Africa. Among the Anlo-Ewe, it is also known as Xebieso, Hu or Tohono. Yeve has a strong historical relations with the Yoruba Shango deity of Nigeria and Fon Xevieso of Benin. Yeve music and dance is distinct from other Ewe musical types because of its general structure. It is considered a suite of seven to nine dance forms or movements. Each movement is related to specific phases of worship. The major dance forms or movements include: Sovu, Husago, Sogbadze, Afovu and Adavu.

Dances from Guinea and Senegal

Dibon

Dibon is played to accompany farmers returning from a long day of work in the fields among the Malinke of Guinea, West Africa. The rhythm comes from the calls of a particular species of birds. These calls help them locate each other in the morning after a night[ch65533]s rest.

Sofa/Kassa

In the Guinean regions of Macenta and Balandougou, Sofa/Kassa music is performed at life cycle celebrations (baptism, circumcisions, and weddings). Sofa is the Malinke term for hunter and the dance is a tribute to them. Some of the dance movements are symbolic gestures to these important members of Mande culture.

Soko

Soko is a Manlinke initiation music and dance from the Faranah region in Guinea performed during the months preceding the male rite of circumcision. Boys, who will be circumcised, traditionally will have their heads shaved during the performance.

Wali

Wali shows work dances that are quite popular in the regions of Guinea in West Africa. It is performed in two sections, Koukou and Triba. Koukou is a Malinke dance from the Guinean highlands, and is a work dance for young men and women. Triba is shared with the Landouma of mid-Guinea; it is performed to celebrate their rice harvest.

Sunu

A welcome ceremonial music of the Malenke people from the border region between Guinea and Mali in West Africa. This music is performed during traditional festivals such as the Ramadan, Tabaseki, weddings and other social occasions.

Dances from Kenya
Mshago

A dance from the Giriama and Digo people of the Coastal Region of Kenya. This harvest dance is performed during happy celebrations of successful community achievements and bumper harvest. The dance movements originate from the style of grinding millet, which emphasize the shoulder and waist with special accentuation of the upper torso.

Isukuti
This dance is from the Kakamega people of the Luhyia ethnic group of western province of Kenya. It is performed mainly during festivities and ceremonies associated with wedding, child naming, bull fight and commemoration of new homes. Most of the songs that are used emphasize and praise the heroes and leaders of the communities.

Dances from Zimbabwe
Mbende
Mbende comes from the Eastern part of Zimbabwe. It is a celebration dance with "talking drum" sounds, performed mostly when a daughter of a chief is about to be wedded The dance itself is a "sexual dance"; a man and a woman are paired to suggest the daughter's impending experiences. The dance is to aid movement beyond the age of innocence by emphasizing commitment to new ways of doing things.

Dances from Uganda
Baakisimba: Sematimba Ne Kikwabanga and Olutalu
Royal music for the Kabaka (king) of the Buganda of Uganda. Two types of log xylophones are found among the Baganda of Uganda and are played in the enclosure of the Kabaka's court. The amadinda is a twelve -key xylophone and the akadinda has seventeen or twenty-two keys. The akadinda is strictly performed for the King (Kabaka). In range, the akadinda extends beyond the amadinda, especially in the upper register. Three musicians play on the amadinda whilst the akadinda involves three to six players. Both xylophone styles are based on interlocking melodies that are performed in octave duplications. The individual parts are often relatively simple, but their combination yields music of extreme complexity and beauty. Accompanying the xylophones are: Enderre (bamboo flute), Endigidi (one string fiddle), Ensasi (two container rattles), Empunyi, Engalibi, Nankasa and Embutu (drums).

Dances from Tanzania
Malivata
A contemporary presentation of the hunters' music and dance from Eastern Tanzania incorporating variety of props and other visual elements from the Southern Region of Africa.

Dances from Nigeria
Bata
Bata music and dance, performed by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, is a traditionally distinct ritual form of expression for Shango, the Yoruba Deity of Thunder and Lightning. Bata music and dance, mainly attached to this deity, play an essential part in the ritual process of the worship. It serves as an important communication link between the deity and the devotees. In Bata performances, the characteristics of Shango are exhibited in the fast and rigorous movements.

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Major Historical Styles

Adzohu Dancers

Adzohu (Ago, Atsia, Kadodo). An epic sacred & historical dance also known as Adzogbo. Dating from the early days of European occupation, Adzohu originally functioned as a spiritual preparation for war, but today it is more a cultural and social event. Dancers wear colorful waist cloth, ankle raffia, bells and hats. The songs build self-respect and strengthen cultural identity to counter the influence of contact with the West. A vast repertoire of movements depict battlefield cunning and bravery, among other things.

Agbekor (Vulolo, Vutsotsoe). An ancient Foh and Ewe war dance once known as Atamga. Agbekor is often performed at social/cultural events and at funerals. It is danced with horsetails and features spectacular slow and fast dance sections interspersed with many ritual song and movement interludes. Dance movements mimic battlefield tactics such as reconnaissance, surprise attack and hand to hand combat.
Cultural and Social Styles

Anyako Atsia. This popular circle dance from the Ewes of Anyako features songs about morality, community, character, and pride. The event is primarily social, and a chance for people to express themselves (and even flirt a bit) through dance & song.

Togo DancersTogo Atsia. A subtle and stylish women's dance from the Ewes of Togo. This event is traditionally organized by women and is used to present their point of view on social issues to the community. Dance and music interludes are interwoven with short skits that focus on the challenges of modern life (often the issues between men & women in particular). Dancers use two horsetails for most movements.

NanDom Bawa. A harvest celebration/prayer/thanksgiving dance from the Lobi people of northwestern Ghana. For practical reasons we don't incorporate baliphones (marimbas) and some other traditional instruments into our performances, which is a big departure from traditional practice - but there's so much going on that it's still a great show piece.

Gahu. A colorful circle dance originally from Nigeria. Dancers wear expensive robes and headgear, and sing of being well-off and proud of it. Gahu seems to enjoy poking fun at Europeans and their odd behavior, among other things.

Tokoe. A coming-of-age dance for girls among the Ga-Adangme, learned at puberty along with mothercraft. Simple but stylish movements present the newly eligible girls to the community.

Kinka. Lively social music and dance derived from older sacred traditions - all of the fun but none of the heavy religious overtones. We usually involve our audience in this one. Traditionally Kinka features songs that are especially well crafted and usually political.

Kpanlogo. A fairly recent (1940s?) highlife dance form. Dancing is high-spirited and the songs are fresh and lively. The drums are conga-like and played with hands.

Agbadza (Poka, Ageshe). A major Ewe social dance tradition. The lead is played on sogo with the hands resulting in a unique musical texture. Slow and fast sections.

Ahazevu Vulolo. A slow social dance tradition. What we do is a small representation of a large musical heritage whose primary purpose is dance fellowship.

Brekete. Ewe music and social dance featuring the buzzing cylindrical Brekete drum.

Gadzo. Both a political and spiritual dance, Gadzo was banned by the British during early colonization because it was perceived as an incendiary institution. Feverish music and dance performed traditionally with live swords (we use fake ones) makes this an exciting event. Drums are conga-like and played with hands.

Takada. A women's social event among the Ewes. The songs build pride and power among women and warn the community of men to make way for other points of view. Historically Takada is associated with a time about 50 years ago when women all over the world began demanding equal standing with men.
Yeve Ritual Music

Agovu. As the name implies, this slower music respectfully "knocks at the door" of the ancestral spirit world to ask for admittance.

Sovu. Dynamic music of spiritual consecration used to clear away material distractions in preparation for worship & possession. We combine several episodes from this style into a consecutive suite of dance segments to make an exciting performance piece.

Adavu/Afovu. Two powerful possession and worship musics that we often perform together as a suite. Any explanation of this music falls short of the actually experience, so give it a listen and you try to describe it!

Sogba. Social dance music, probably heard more than any other style because it allows for relaxed social fellowship and song.

Husago. Distinctive sacred music of a deeply polyrhythmic nature. Husago is used as an introductory music to Yeve ceremonies, also common at funerals.

Fofui. Music associated with healing and vitality. Highly energetic dancing set to some very fast and intricate music.
Other Sacred Styles

Afa (Anago, Dzisa). Music and dance from Afa, a religious sect. Afa initiates go through a long initiation period like the Yeve, but Afa music is less exclusive and lends itself readily to secular events. Afa is often performed before other dance styles to consecrate an event, something like saying a prayer before a baseball game.

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Adowa - is a graceful dance which has borrowed a lot from dances like Kete, Denesewu, etc. It was originally a funeral dance and this character is preserved in the graceful, dignified walking movement. It is usually preceded by a chorus of voices, and two boat-shaped bells, two drums joining later. When the mood has been suggested in song, the Atumpan drums enter. Various parts of the body pick up specific rhythms from particular drums for motivation, while the body turns, spins and bows are suggested by the melody in song. As a dance, it is popular among the Twis, the Fantes (who call it Adzewa) and also among the Gas. The Ashanti Adowa now has about eight forms derived from other dances. Thus the Ahunum is modified Akapoma, a dance from that the Adowa superseded.

ADZOHU

Gota was originally a dance for medicine men of the ancient kingdom of Dahomey, now Benin, in West Africa. As such, it retains the use of the mystic calabash drum from that time. Today, Gota is performed for social entertainment. The synchronized stops and starts of the drums and dancers lend the dance an air of suspense and excitement.

Adzohu - originally a cult dance associated with one of the war gods of Benin (Dahomey). Traditionally, Adzohu is done in two parts, the first part, "Kadodo" is for women only, - here the women gather as chorus group singing and performing rituals before while the young men "warriors" are prepared spiritually for the war. The second part, "Atsia" is done by the young "warrior" men prior to their departure to the battlefield. Since ethnic wars have subsided in West Africa, women have embraced the male part of this dance movement as an entertainment piece. Our presentation tonight will focus on the women dancers demonstrating the second component of the Adzohu dance movements.

Atsia - In the Ewe language, "Atsia" means "style or display". The Atsia dance which is performed mostly by women, is a series of stylistic movements dictated to dancers by the lead drummer. Each dance movement has its own prescribed rhythmic pattern which is synchronized with the lead drum. Our presentation is a sampling of the medium through which women express their artistic abilities to the general public.

ATIZA

Atsiagbekor a.k.a. Agbekor - is a contemporary version of the Ewe traditional war dance. Atamga - Great (ga), Oath (atam) - in reference to the oaths taken by the ancestral Ewe speaking people before proceeding into battle. The movements of the present day version of this dance, mostly in platoon formation. Occasionally solo and small group dancing is performed toward the end of each presentation reminiscent of the battlefield. Reconnaissance, surprise attack and hand to hand combat are the stylized forms of the modern version of this dance. The main dance is fast paced and draws upon battle maneuvers for certain episodes, such as planning the attack, advancing and retreating. The modern version of Atsiagbekor is performed for entertainment at social gatherings and at cultural presentations.

Bamaya is a popular dance performed at harvest time among the Dagbani of northern Ghana. Dagbani dances are, in general, marked by dignity, grace, and controlled expressiveness.

Bawa is an harvest festival dance of the Dargarthi in north western Ghana. The seasonal performance opens with a propitiatory libation to the gods and ancestors, both in gratitude for the year's harvest and as an appeal for more abundant crops in the coming year. Young and old of both sexes participate; but our choreography is performed elegantly by our female dancers. A notable feature of Bawa, like that of many other African dances, is the cueing of the various dance figures by the lead drummer.

BAWA

Husango and Tsina are dances of the Yewe, the god of thunder and lightening among the Ewe speaking people of Ghana, Togo, and Benin. These dances are introductory dances to all Yewe ceremonies. Primary function of the Husango and Tsina are to alert all members of the Yewe cult and the community at large to the commencement of a ritual.

Kete - A court dance for paramount chiefs in Akan communities of Ghana, West Africa. Kete is noted for the courtliness and graceful movements of the female dancers. The full Kete consists of the Kete drums, voices and odurugya (bamboo flutes). This dance has always been a court dance for the chiefs, Amahene, Aberempon and members of the Royal Household.

Kpalongo is the latest development in Ghana of the West African Recreational dance, the Highlife.

Libation (Appeasing the Gods) - invocation of the gods and ancestors is a long-standing tradition of African people. On grand occasions such as "The Afrikans Are Coming", the gods of the land and spirits of the deceased elders of the community, patrons, composers, drummers and dancers are invited to come and witness, and most of all, bless the forthcoming event or performance.
However the method of invocation varies from one African community to another. Among the Ewe speaking people of southern Ghana, water is first poured in a calabash followed by a finger tip of cornmeal is mixed up thoroughly by hand and is first offered to the ancestors followed by a locally distilled gin called "Akpeteshie" as performed by Kobla tonight.

Yewe Suite [- Sowuafowu - in this arrangement the dancers enter the stage with some wild movements from a Yewe piece named Adawu. Sowu and Afowu are religious dances performed by members of the Yewe religious sect. Yewe is the God of thunder and lightening among the Ewe speaking people of Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Yewe is a very exclusive cult and its music is one of the most developed forms of sacred music in Eweland. The piece ends with Afowu, a fast dance movement.

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Jera was originally a religious music and dance of the Kparibas in Dagbon, performed before and after hunting expeditions. It is now performed by most Dagbamba villages in Northern Ghana on diverse social occasions: festivals, funerals, and for recreation after a hard day's work. The religious costume is however retained.


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